Marion Lawrence “Larry” Cash

Since first conceived in the 1920’s the Pacific Crest Trail has known bright and dark times. In one of those dark times Larry Cash was there to carry the trail.

Marion Lawrence Cash was born in 1915, in Bristol, Virginia, within 20 miles of what would become the Appalachian Trail. “Larry” as most knew him, moved west where he found his passions and his work. In 1942 he married Zlotta “Zotty” Risley in Oxnard, California and after a three-year Navy stint in World War II, he went to work for Pacific Northwest Bell. He retired from PNB after 31 years. He never retired from marriage with Zotty. In September 2009 they observed their 67th wedding anniversary, and then April next, Zotty passed on. Four months later, at age 94, on July 25, 2010, Larry Cash died in Eugene, Oregon.

Pacific Northwest Bell’s loss was the PCT’s gain. In 1995 in a letter to Ray Jardine, the ultralight hiking guru, Larry Cash wrote: “My interest in, and association with, the Pacific Crest Trail began in earnest in 1977. I turned 62 in October of that year and my primary interest moved from my job to my family and our outdoor activities.”

In 1978, Larry hiked much of the Oregon PCT with Zotty and two of his sons and soon afterward began getting heavily involved in the two PCTA predecessor organizations, the Pacific Crest Club and Pacific Crest Trail Conference. At the time the “Club” was for individuals and the “Conference” was for organizations. In 1984, Larry Cash’ was elected Conference vice-president, and in May 1986, when Charles Vogel, the Conference’s 90-year-old president resigned, Larry Cash became PCT Conference president. No real money, no employees, Larry Cash ran the Conference out of his house and often out of his own pocket.

One of Larry’s family wrote: “Those were the days of no budget, no office, no paid staff support…. [He] worked 10-12 hour days in an upstairs bedroom he’d converted into an office, writing letters, responding to inquiries, monitoring trail conditions and trail registers,..” and the list went on. “He got out on the trail when he could, but keeping the PCT Conference flame alive took almost all his time.”

In 1986 the first Communicator came out of Larry’s Eugene house. About 1987, Larry crowed in a letter that membership was “almost a hundred,” that “our meager bank account [was] up to about $1500, that he’d bought a better typewriter, … set up the PCTC national office in a spare room of our home, shared our home phone and enlisted my wife and daughter to help with paper work.”

The ‘80s and early ‘90s were lean times for the trail. The spurt of ’70s hikers set loose by Colin Fletcher, Eric Ryback and the first Wilderness Press guidebooks had petered out. Money, and even interest in the PCT had grown slim. Larry Cash persevered. He was PCT Conference president for six years. During his tenure the first Executive Director was hired, the “Club” and the “Conference” merged and the name changed to today’s Pacific Crest Trail Association.

After stepping aside as president in 1992, only one year passed before Larry had to take on the president’s mantle again. “Having no willing candidate for president, I agreed to take the reins for one more year.” Finally, in 1994, Ben York accepted the PCTA presidency. The burden of the PCTA transferred onto others. The PCTA office moved to York’s home in Alpine California.

In 1995 Larry took on the role of PCTA historian and the PCTA’s files show much correspondence toward this end. In 1997 Larry Cash received a well-deserved PCTA Lifetime Achievement Award.

His family says that Larry Cash kept the trail close to his heart until the end. For his memorial program, his five children chose a John Muir quote: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

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